See a doctor Skip to content

What causes Asthma?

Asthma causes inflammation in your airways, but why this happens is not fully understood, although certain things can increase the chances of your getting asthma. These include if you:

  • have a family history of asthma (such as a parent or sibling)
  • have eczema, hay fever or other allergies - these can be in yourself, or in your family
  • are an adult woman, as hormones may act as a trigger
  • had a severe lung infection when you were young
  • your mother smoked while she was pregnant with you or if you were exposed to tobacco smoke (2nd hand smoke) when you were a child
  • are overweight
  • were born prematurely or at a low birth weight
  • where you work can also be a trigger, such as if you work with particular chemicals (occupational asthma).

What triggers asthma?

People with asthma often find that certain things can trigger their symptoms, make them worse or lead to an asthma attack. Common asthma triggers include:

  • allergies, such as pollen, dust mites, animal fur and dander
  • an infection, such as a cold, flu
  • alcohol - some people find that certain types of alcohol can trigger asthma symptoms, with red wine being the most common according to Asthma UK - it’s thought to be the histamine the alcohol contains
  • air pollution
  • smoke - if you have asthma and you are a smoker you should take steps to stop - if you are a smoker and your child has asthma, even if you don’t smoke near them, even just the smell of cigarette smoke on your clothes could make their asthma worse
  • fumes, such as paint fumes, solvents or cleaning chemicals
  • mould
  • emotions, such as stress
  • weather changes, such as thunderstorms, and fluctuating hot and cold temperatures
  • exercise - staying active is good for you if you have asthma. If exercise triggers your asthma you may need different treatment to help you control the symptoms
  • medications, such as aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication or beta-blockers.

Triggers will vary from person to person - work with your GP to find out your triggers, so that you can avoid them in the future.

Related Articles on Asthma